First off I want to apologize for how quiet things have been around here. We have had colds, allergies and general feelings of “blahs” going around. Also I have been hard at work on a special project that I look forward to sharing with you (not the laundry room remodel, progress has temporarily stalled on that front). Hopefully we will be back to our “not so regularly scheduled programming” sometime next week. Thanks!
Two years ago this week my husband and I processed down main street, baby in tow (er, in arm) and bought a house. We didn’t know much about home ownership (we still don’t), and while crazy exciting, the prospect of “breaking” the house was more than a little intimidating. Along the way we have learned a few valuable lessons and I am sure that we will learn many more.
Because the house was a sixty year old short sale it wasn’t in ideal condition. The previous owner had two dogs, three cats, twelve rabbits and one snake; she wasn’t particularly scrupulous about how this affected the cleanliness of the house.
Fortunately we had lots of awesome friends who very generously helped us get the house in a more clean state, over 100 man power hours later it was move-in ready. Lesson Learned: We have awesome friends.
I still think of my friend Rebecca who cleaned out my pantry (we joked that it looked like a dead cat had exploded in it), Sarah who helped me clean out my cabinets (apparently the previous owner also had some non-domesticated rodent “pets”), and Mary who helped me paint over the pornographic graffiti in what is now my son’s room. I promise we are actually in a decent neighborhood, the house was just really neglected.
In the month after moving, our house rebelled. One light fixture shot out sparks, the garbage disposal switch shocked my mom. the heating system sounded like a dying dinosaur, and the sewer lines backed up into our house . . .twice.
That month we spent the equivalent of a mortgage payment in repairs. Lesson Learned: emergency savings accounts are awesome and save additional stress when you are already overwhelmed.
While we are on the subject of money, I find it hilarious to think that I thought that I would have the entire house fixed up the way I wanted, within two-three months for less than $2K. Cue big belly laugh here. Now two years later we are slowly, but surely catching up on all the deferred maintenance and addressing repairs, but aesthetic updates are quite incomplete.
When we moved in I wanted to repaint EVERYTHING; I figured it would only take a week or two. Cue another big belly laugh. Within a month of moving in I became pregnant with our daughter and promptly passed out on the couch for the next few months from pregnancy exhaustion. Most of the rooms in the house still have not been painted yet.
This used to bother me to no end, as if the unpainted walls were mocking me. Now I see it a bit differently. The walls are not mocking me, they serve as a reminder that I have higher priorities that take precedence, such as my husband and children.
This house is to serve to foster relationships, to be a refuge for my family and a place of hospitality for friends. Lesson Learned: To the extent that decorating aids in the aforementioned goals it is a good thing, to the extent that it detracts from them, it ceases to be good.
On that related topic, the past two years have shown that DIY projects aren’t our strong suit. As I previously mentioned, we start them at a tortoise’s pace. My husband, for some reason, doesn’t derive the same delight as I do from decorating. For him, painting walls and hanging curtains is an act of love and sacrifice. One year he even worked it into his Lenten penances.
Now I have come to understand that he works many long and hard hours and when he comes home he doesn’t want to work more, or be apart from me while I lock myself in a room to paint; he wants to have time as a family.
I have finally come to realize that our most precious resource is time. Time spent working on projects is time not spent on family, writing, singing or any of the other activities we enjoy. If there is a project that we don’t particularly like, perhaps our time would be better spent on other pursuits.
I am finally realizing that it isn’t wrong to hire out work that we could do ourselves. That this allows us to play to our strengths. Lesson learned: Before attempting a project take time and energy into account as valuable resources, instead of just money.
Finally, this house is teaching me the importance of embracing the beauty of everyday life in all its mess and chaos. Who would want to live in a perfect house any way, a house where there are no toys strewn on the floor, or sewing projects underway, or sheets of music that somehow always seem to escape their neat binders? Not I. Our house is full of life, and life isn’t always neat and tidy.
Our house is a place of growth, fellowship and love. A place where friends (and sometimes strangers) are welcome, even if the dishes aren’t done.
I strive to create beauty and order in my home, not to attain some pristinely clean, impeccably decorated home, perfect in its sterility. I strive to make it a haven for my family and friends, a place of joy and rest. Lesson Learned: A perfect house isn’t my goal, a happy family is.
Has your home taught you any important life lessons? Do you enjoy decorating or look at it as just another chore? I would love to hear about it in the comments.